Being active when living within a large body: experiences during lifestyle intervention

Bente Skovsby Toft, Kathleen T Galvin, Claus Vinther Nielsen, Lisbeth Uhrenfeldt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background: In-depth understanding of the experiences of both well-being and suffering in relation to being severely obese and becoming active through lifestyle intervention is lacking.

    Aim: to explore and describe adults’ existential experiences of being active, when living within a large body—before and during a lifestyle intervention.

    Methods: A longitudinal design of repeated individual interviews with 16 adults with BMI ≥40, based on hermeneutic phenomenology, existential philosophy and a theory of well-being was performed. The study was approved by the Danish health authorities.

    Results: Two dimensions of experiences were found; “Living within a downward spiral” and “Striving for enjoyment and settlement”. The themes describing suffering were: ‘Sense of being thwarted and defeated ‘ and “Tackling energy depletion and impact of sense of self”. The themes describing well-being were: “Hoping for renewal and energised resoluteness” and “Enduring discomfort and feeling safe”.

    Conclusions: Interacting existential experiences can be facilitators or barriers for physical activity. It seems relevant for health care providers to address the individual’s lifeworld experiences of well-being, lack of well-being and suffering. Well-being as a sense of feeling “at home” when physically active may break down an inactivity spiral. Promoting well-being is a legitimate aim of lifestyle intervention.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1736769
    JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2020

    Bibliographical note

    © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


    • Adults
    • experience
    • hermeneutics
    • life style
    • lifeworld
    • obesity
    • physical activity
    • qualitative study
    • well-being


    Dive into the research topics of 'Being active when living within a large body: experiences during lifestyle intervention'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this